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I cannot seem to find an agreement on the proper capitalisation of geographical entities that use common nouns as part of their full name.

Specifically my example is:

...was found in the Pacific, Southern, and Indian Oceans.

since both Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean etc. are the correct terms.

or should it be:

...was found in the Pacific, Southern, and Indian oceans.

As, strictly speaking, Oceans (plural) is not part of either name?

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Inasmuch as "Ocean" is actually part of the names of these bodies of water -- both "Pacific" and "Atlantic" are at base, just adjectives -- your first alternative is correct. I says this even though one may use "Pacific" and "Atlantic" as stand-alones when their meaning as references to the particular oceans is clear from context.

Similarly, if we were to refer to two of the Great Lakes, we might say:

Today I swam in both Lakes Superior and Michigan.

Even though as in Gordon Lightfoot's song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, he sings "Superior, it is said, never gives up her dead..." and we know that it is the Great Lake he's talking about.

  • Yes, good point about some oceans being referred to by just their first name. "...found in the Southern and Indian Oceans" may have been a clearer example. – decvalts Aug 19 '14 at 22:09

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